Open letter: Appeal for review of the immigration agreement with Italy

To the Government of Albania

A group of civil society organizations and human rights activists, after being informed with the fact of the signature of a “Protocol” between Albania and Italy, on the use of Albanian territory for the creation of areas intended for the reception and holding of asylum-seeking refugees1, protocol signed in Rome by the Prime Minister of Albania Edi Rama and the Prime Minister of Italy Giorgia Meloni, expresses its concern as below:

a) The Protocol foresees that the period of stay of migrants in the territory of the Republic of Albania cannot be longer than the maximum period allowed by the relevant Italian legislation on the matter. We notice that there are no legal provisions on the consequences of violating this period of stay, and the real time duration of the review of asylum requests or appeals against the rejection decisions of these citizens, from the Italian authorities2. Taking into consideration the data, that Italy examines asylum requests in very long terms (6 months to 1 year)3, this may result in unfair removal of freedom of movement for asylum seekers, violating the international principle of “non-refoulement of asylum seekers” with potentially legal consequences for the Albanian state4.

b) The current analysis of international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International highlights that the protocol may conflict with the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, article 78(1) and with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, (articles 18 and 19) and Albania may become an accomplice in these violations, which is not positive prospect for a country that wants to join the European Union (EU). Concerns were also expressed yesterday by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Council of Europe, Dunja Mijatovic, according to whom, the measures proposed in the protocol significantly increase the risk of exposing refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants to violations of human rights. The transfer of responsibility across borders by some states incentivizes other states to act as well, which risks creating a domino effect that would undermine the European and world system for international protection5.

c) Meanwhile, some of our organizations are carefully studying the Protocol provisions in order to come up with public positions of a technical nature in accordance with their mission.

d) The lack of transparency or public consultation of the agreement, as well as to officially inform the highest institutions of the country (the President and the Assembly), the local institutions involved, as well as the local community and the general public, constitute a disturbing development and negative deviation from the practice and standards of democratic countries, which are mandatory for a country like Albania, in negotiations for EU membership. The EU’s progress reports on Albania have consistently and rightly criticized formal consultations or the lack of public consultations on issues of public interest. The duty of the government and representative institutions is to respond to suggestions or criticisms and to improve practices under the spirit of implementing the open government principles, and not to turn wrong practices into normality.

Considering the complexity of immigration in terms of respecting human rights and international obligations on the protection of persons in need (Geneva Convention of July 28, 1951, and Protocol of January 31, 1967) and hoping that the history the painful Albanian emigration of the last three decades to serve as a lesson, we request the withdrawal of Albania from this protocol.

  1. Civil Rights Defenders, Albania
  2. BIRN, Albania
  3. Albanian Legal and Territorial Research Institute/ Center A.L.T.R.I
  4. “Civic Resistance’ Organization
  5. Albanian Helsinki Committee
  6. Center for Gender Justice in Albania
  7. Social Justice Organization
  8. Institute of Roma Culture in Albania
  9. TREJA Center
  10. Voice of Roma in Albania
  11. YMCA Center, Albania
  12. Youth Voice Online
  13. VATRA Psycho-Social Center
  14. Center for Community Development “Today for the Future”
  15. Youth Roma and Egyptian Movement
  16. Institute for Activism and Social Change
  17. Institute for Political Studies
  18. Roma Versitas Albania
  19. Center for Roma Women’s Rights
  20. “Together for Life” organization
  21. Institute for Democracy and Mediation
  22. Women’s Empowerment Network in Albania (AWEN)
  23. Tirana Legal Aid Society
  24. Observatory for Children and Youth Rights
  25. Partners Albania for Change and Development
  26. Center “ACT for SOCIETY”
  27. Network for Women’s Democracy, Albania
  28. Center for Legal and Civic Initiatives
  29. National Platform Center for Women

1 According to the information made public by the Prime Minister, a special terminal for the first verification will be created near the Port of Shengjin, as well as the immigrant center in Gjadër.
2 See: Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italy, European Court of Human Rights.

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